Monday, September 21, 2009

National AIDS Helpline: Pilot training

After a long day of travelling in Johannesburg it is so exciting to be part of the rollout of the world's first HIV/AIDS Mobile Instant Messaging counselling service by the National AIDS Helpline. This week it will be further training with the counsellors and training with the supervisors of National AIDS Helpline who will be managing the services locally. This initiative has been made possible by Cell-Life and their partners who are sponsoring this service.

To add the HIV/AIDS mobile counselling service do the following:

- Add on your mobile chat service and accept the contact.
- This service is currently available Monday to Thursday 4 - 6pm.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vlogging with the Reconstructed

This morning I had the privilege to facilitate the Reconstructed session at the Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs) space. Video blogging or "Vlogging" was the area we focused on and it was amazing to see how the team managed to video blog with ease. A short background about what video blogging was and how others have been using it (like the "From the Couch" site) was explained.

The team had to go out and shoot a short 30 second video which they had to upload to YouTube and post to their blog. Within a few minutes we had the video shoot, some even posted to YouTube and embedded into their blog. You can view some of the videos on the Reconstructed blog. Many of the team will be using video as a medium to explore the rich and colorful stories of their communities sharing that message of hope.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Social Media for Teens

Over the past few weeks we've seen some of our young people coming to the Impact Centre on a Friday afternoon for Social Media and Life skills training. This idea was the brain child of Craig Ross, Clinton Liederman and Brent Williams who saw the need in the community where young people are being lured into gang activity and drug related activities. The Friday sessions include social networking, micro-blogging, blogging, sharing sites and other social media tools that can be used as a medium to share Life Skills with these youth. Expect much more from this initiative and we can expect much more developments from the team who are currently facilitating these sessions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Support Group celebrates success

Weekend Post
Today an article appeared in the Weekend Post by Yolande Stander "Support group celebrates success" featuring the work we've been doing over the past year using mobile technology to support people in need:

"THE South African group who conceptualised using social media like MXit to address social problems affecting young people has celebrated one year of success – and sealed a deal with a Bay company to further their progress.

The success story began a year ago with 12 men and women who called themselves The Reconstructed. All had experience of either drug addiction and dealing as well as gangsterism but, fully rehabilitated and trained to council people, they began using MXit to reach out to those at risk.

The brainchild behind the principle is social entrepreneur and information technology lecturer Marlon Parker.

Parker was in Port Elizabeth this week to introduce non-profit organisations, NGOs, community-based organisations and charities to social media and help them use these technologies as strategic tools for engagement, relationship building with stakeholders, networking and fundraising....."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My first WAP mobile phone

Ten years ago I acquired my first WAP enabled phone the NOKIA 7110. Just amazed at how technology has changed. Post your first WAP enabled mobile phone as a comment to this post.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Youth Marketing for Non profits

With the increased number of organisations especially non-profits looking at how they can engage with young people the video below, by Graham Brown of Mobile Youth, gives an insightful overview of what these organisations can do to reach their youth target market. The Reconstructed Project also featured in this video as we continue spreading the message of hope amongst our young people in South Africa.

The use of Facebook for social encouragement in a Community in Tension

Web 2.0 services are continuing to serve the online communities by enhancing interactions and communication among these communities. From MySpace to Facebook, the online communities are able to communicate effectively and efficiently. The world is getting smaller because a friend is just a click away on the internet. Web 2.0 services have created a virtual world that brings people closer through the formation of networks. Web 2.0 services have addressed several shortcomings that traditionally were difficult such as time constraints, geographical borders and communication costs. This paper explores the use of Facebook among people from a community affected with gangsterism and drugs. According to Maslow’s theories of human needs, social needs are said to influence human behaviour. This paper investigated the use of Facebook to enhance effective communication and interaction among ex-gang members, ex-drug addicts and other citizens in a Community in Tension. The purpose is to prevent the growth and spread of gangsterism and the use of drugs among South African communities. You can read the full paper presented at the World Wide Web Conference last year here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Digital Citizen Indaba 4.0

Today is the start of the fourth Digital Citizen Indaba (DCI) which is part of the Highway Africa Conference. It is hosted at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. DCI is an annual event that brings together bloggers, online and mobile journalists, citizen reporters, new media practitioners, online industry experts and civil society representatives. This year I will be hosting a workshop titled "Digital Voices to Reconstruct Communities" and a few of the slides can be viewed below:

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Art of Mobile Counselling - Part 3

Continuing our journey on exploring "The Art of Mobile Counselling" today we will look at what is known as Text language or "Textese". This is a language and culture that is increasingly used by mobile chat users. As a mobile counsellor being familiar with how the language evolved is important and to understand how the chat language words are formed. Below is a general guideline to what could be expected from most chat users:

Words are replaced with single letters:
be --> b
see --> c
are --> r
you --> u
why --> y
okay --> k

Words can be replaced with single digits:
one, won --> 1
to, too --> 2
tree --> 3
for --> 4
ate --> 8

A single letter or digit can replace a syllable therefore shortening some words e.g: ate can be replaced with 8, therefore great can be text as gr8, wait becomes w8, later becomes l8r or l8a. To can be replaced with 2 therefore we can have tomorrow that could be text as 2mro.

Combinations of the above can shorten a single or multiple words for example your and You're become ur or yr and u're. Next week we will continue with "The Art of Mobile Counselling".

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mobile Youth: Youth Marketing for the Public Sector

This week the Drug Advice Support service to mobilise youth in support of social good was featured on Mobile Youth website and Upstart Radio. An eBook "Youth Marketing for the Public Sector" by Graham Brown explores various ways how brands and public sector organisations have engaged youth in social programs. In our case the key element was identifying the champions amongst the youth as reaching them on a platform that they are comfortable with.

You can read more about engaging with youth for social good programmes in the FREE eBook that can be downloaded here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mobile language preferences by users on MXit

One of the projects that we are collaborating with is the Red MXit information service offering HIV info to users in different languages. This project is currently be managed by Cell-Life and the idea is to give access to information on the MXit platform. The user have to add the service on the MXit profile as a buddy and can view information in 4 of the official South African languages (SA have 11 official languages - See table on the right for language distribution during 2001 census) and in the text (mobile) language. It was interesting to see (High level observations) which of these languages are the most popular amongst our users using this service. Red gave the user the following language options:

- English
- MXit Chat
- Afrikaans
- Sesotho
- Zulu

The number of subscribers to this service is 22,003 of which 62% is male subscribers. The age groups for this service support the MXit demographics with 76% of the subscribers being between the ages of 15-25. The same content was available in all the language options for the user and the following was the language preferences (estimates based on overview of available users count) ranked:

1) English was the most popular choice with approximately 60% of users accessing content
2) Chat Language (MXi Chat) had approximately 25% of users
3) Afrikaans had approximately 10% of the users accessing content
4) Zulu content was accessed by approximately 3% of users
5 Sesotho content was accessed by approximately 2% of users

Although Zulu has the highest number of home language speakers in South Africa in only managed 4th on the list of available languages with the English language proving to be the most popular with the current group of subscribers. Interesting observation in the above list is the MXit chat or chat language that was more popular than Afrikaans, Zulu, Sesotho combined (These languages presenting more than 45% of the South African population).

Perhaps more should be done to see how the chat language can be integrated as part of mobile service delivery with the increase of mobile users being comfortable communicating using it as its language of choice.

To add this contact on MXit:
- Go to Tradepost
- Select MXit Mix
- Select My Culture option
- Select Red
- Add Contact

This service is available 24 hours a day. Your feedback would be welcomed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blogging as a change agent to empower citizens

As I am getting ready to attend the World Wide Web Conference in Port Elizabeth this week I was reminded of a paper we presented at the same conference in Cape Town last year titled "Blogging as a change agent to empower citizens in communities with tension". Below is a short abstract from the paper:

"The power of the Internet as a facility is that it has allowed many people worldwide to use it without feeling the real bite of the term ‘cost’. It comprises of numerous technologies that create an interesting question: How far has the information technology world come in terms of development? The introduction of a Web 2.0 technology known as weblogs or blogging has fast become a popular choice of application used on the Internet. Blogging prove to have both major advantages and disadvantages when used in the business environment. Not much research has been conducted on the personal impact blogging has on individuals. An issue that this paper addresses is in determining how helpful blogging can be when used by a group of individuals that are in the phase of drug rehabilitation. Ex-drug addicts and gang members from the Cape Flats in Cape Town were used as a case to investigate how much of an impact blogging had on them on a personal level, in their everyday lives and others that surround them. Blogging could be an alternative assisting or possibly empowering individuals in communities with tension allowing them to express themselves and see the world from a new perspective."

Source: Proceedings of the 10th Annual Conference on World Wide Web Applications 3-5 September 2008, Cape Town, South Africa